The Panthers recorded a seventh-straight victory as they thumped Manly Sea Eagles 42-12 in a stellar performance at Lottoland on Saturday.
It was a marvellous team effort by the Panthers, as they completed 42/45 sets, but Nathan Cleary stole the show with a stunning individual display. He scored a wonderful solo try, assisted another two, kicked a 40/20 and landed seven goals in a win that ensures Panthers remain on top of the NRL ladder for at least another week.
Charlie Staines scored a first-half double to make it six tries in two NRL appearances, before leaving the field with a minor injury. Brent Naden celebrated NRL Indigenous Round with a try of his own, while Isaah Yeo, Stephen Crichton and the returning Api Koroisau also crossed the line.
With seven-consecutive victories, the Panthers are now one win away from equalling the club-record winning streak of eight games.
The Panthers have made a habit of getting off to fast starts this season, and this match was no different. They opened the scoring in the 7th minute, before rushing out to a 22-0 lead.
Charlie Staines scored with one of his very first touches, as he picked up a pass by Nathan Cleary and beat two defenders to slide over out wide, giving the Panthers an early 4-0 advantage.
The Panthers defended consecutive sets on their own line after a try-saving tackle by Caleb Aekins, and they were rewarded for their efforts with another try.
Isaah Yeo bagged his second try in as many weeks, as he split through the middle and wrestled his way over the stripe. Cleary then converted to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Yeo wrestles his way over
Cleary gave the Panthers another attacking chance when his towering bomb was spilled by Brendan Elliot in a contest with Liam Martin, and the halfback took full advantage.
Cleary sent a soaring cut-out pass to Charlie Staines, who raced onto the ball and acrobatically dived over for an incredible try, his sixth in two games. Cleary then curled in the sideline conversion, stretching the Panthers’ lead to 16-0.
Spectacular finish as Staines scores his second
Staines then had to leave the field after picking up a minor injury in the act of scoring, with Tyrone May replacing him in the backline.
Cleary’s kicking game continued to plague the Sea Eagles, as he kicked a 40/20 to set up the Panthers’ fourth try in the 28th minute.
The Panthers shifted it left, where Viliame Kikau shrugged out of a tackle and offloaded to Jarome Luai, who sent Stephen Crichton over for his 11th try of the season. Cleary added the extras to make it 22-0.
Crichton strolls over for eleventh try of the year
The Sea Eagles had been repelled by Penrith’s brilliant goal-line defence numerous times in the first half, but they eventually found a breakthrough in the 33rd minute.
Jake Trbojevic latched onto an inside ball by Daly Cherry-Evans to barge over on the last tackle, and Reuben Garrick’s conversion closed the gap to 16 points.
Manly threatened to pile on another try at the end of the first half before Brent Naden made an intercept and broke away. Referee Gerard Sutton waved away Penrith’s pleas for a sin bin after Manly conceded a penalty, and Nathan Cleary settled for the two points.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 24 – SEA EAGLES 6
The Panthers dominated field position early in the second half, after forcing back-to-back dropouts by dragging Manly players into the in-goal. The pressure paid off, as they extended their lead in the 50th minute.
The Panthers had benefitted from Nathan Cleary’s kicking game all night, but the halfback saved one for himself to score a superb solo try.
Cleary sets up his own four-pointer
Cleary rolled a grubber behind Manly’s goal-line defence, before regathering and skipping past Brendan Elliot to slide over. He then knocked over the conversion to give the Panthers a 24-point lead after 51 minutes.
The Sea Eagles were not going die wondering, and pulled back a try in the 56th minute when Daly Cherry-Evans’ wobbly cross-field kick fell for Jorge Taufua. The conversion by Reuben Garrick made it 30-12.
But the Panthers were proving too strong, and it was not long before they put the result beyond doubt.
Brent Naden celebrated NRL Indigenous Round with a try, as he dotted down in the corner off a Tyrone May cut-out pass when the Panthers shifted the ball right.
Pin-point pass puts Naden over
The sideline conversion from Nathan Cleary gave the Panthers a 24-point buffer with 15 minutes remaining.
Api Koroisau then marked his return from injury by scoring the Panthers’ seventh try in the 71st minute. Jarome Luai attracted multiple defenders with dazzling footwork as he drifted in from the left edge, before sending Koroisau over the stripe.
Cleary’s seventh goal of the night made it 42-12.
The Sea Eagles pushed for a late consolation, but the Panthers’ goal-line defence held firm to ensure a 30-point win, which secures top spot on the NRL ladder for another week.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 42 – SEA EAGLES 12